this is a story. i started it last week. i pulled it out of my ass. it was fun.
parts 1 and 2
here is the end.
You're all done? Mom calls from the kitchen.
Yah, I lie. I never finished shoveling the walkway but I'm not willing to explain why so I don't go there.
The house smells like chicken soup. I linger in the hallway, putting my things away deliberately, neat for once, while I wait for my heart rate to slow and my breath to even out.
Then I take on the kitchen.
I grab a bowl, fill it up from the pot on the stove, and sit across from Mom. She's looking at the newspaper. Dad will eat on the road. I take a bite.
Mmmm, good bread would have been perfect with this. I'm putting my toe in the water.
She nods, distracted. I should have picked some up. Next time.
We eat in silence for a few minutes. Have you ever tried making it yourself?
Bread? No, it's never been my thing. She looks back down at the newspaper. This is a dead end so I decide to throw the door wide open.
Has Annie ever made bread for you?
She doesn't look up. A long time ago. That's all she gives me. I know how it is. Normally I'd just leave it alone. But I need this. So I keep going.
Did you get what you needed, then?
I'm half expecting that she won't answer. So she surprises me by looking up with a sort of smile on her face. Yah, she says. I got you.
Well that's sure not what I expected her to say. But it makes sense. I could ask a million more questions but I let it be. It's enough. She's done with her soup anyway, folding up the newspaper and standing to push in her chair.
She washes the dishes and asks about my day. I talk, like this is normal. It's not.
It's 1a.m. when I come out of my room. Dad has been home for a couple hours and has finally gone to bed. There is no way I can sleep.
So I open the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook binder Mom keeps next to the microwave. I find the bread section and pick out the first and simplest recipe. I've never done this before.
The flour I find easily. Salt, sugar, water, butter. No problem. I have to hunt a bit for the yeast, but Mom keeps an old meatloaf pan of various packets of things -- you know, taco seasoning, gravy starter, stuff like that for just in case. There's a three-pack of active-dry yeast in the back of this makeshift file. We sometimes make pizza dough. Actual bread can't be too much different.
Actually, it's pretty much the same. I'm surprised we've never made this one before. I don't use the electric mixer and it's handy dough hook for the kneading, though. I have to use my hands. That's the whole point.
I sprinkle flour on one section of the table and plop down the blob of dough. I look at it for a good minute, wondering exactly what I'm supposed to do. And then I just dig in, pressing and folding because that's what feels right.
Knead my name into it. That's what she said. So I start thinking Annie's name in my head. Not the word, really, but...the...imprint. The way it feels in my mouth when I say it. The way I felt when she spoke to me. The bare walls in her house and her see-through hair and penetrating eyes. The dough warms in my hands. My arm muscles feel the unfamiliar exertion but something else too. Something that starts like a few then a million little needles pressing through my skin, through my tissue, right into my bones. It's bad and good but mostly good. I want it to stop. But mostly I don't.
I knead far longer than the 8-10 recommended minutes. The dough changes under my palms from somewhat sticky to completely smooth and even elastic. When I can see my heartbeat in my vision -- strange pulsating dark spots -- I decide it's enough. I let it rest.
I doze off while it rises and bakes. I take it to my room to cool and sleep the hour before dawn with a loaf of bread on my desk. I leave it on her doorstep in the morning, wrapped in foil. I ring the doorbell but don't wait for her to answer it. I'm late for school .
When I get home in the afternoon, I'm not surprised to see the commotion across the street. The lights, the people, the in and out.
Annie is dead.